“When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace.” (John 19:8-9a)
This week at my daughter’s school, the 5th grade students were given a presentation assignment. The topic was, “Who is the greatest person to you?”
As my daughter recapped what happened when they were given the task to complete, I realized she had faced a significant decision point that day.
Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea from A.D. 26-36, serving under Emperor Tiberius. He is most known for his tepid involvement in the trials and sentencing of Jesus to be crucified.
In John 19, we see that Pilate had also faced a significant decision point that day. The Jewish leaders had brought Jesus to Pilate, in hopes that Jesus would be executed for His ministry and claim to be the Son of God.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all reveal Pilate’s reluctance in sentencing Jesus, with John offering more detail on his interaction with Christ, even asking the famous question, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
While Pilate believed that the claims against Jesus are baseless (John 19:12), he gives in to the Jewish leaders’ demands, and ultimately in to his own fears.
“I knew in my heart who I wanted to present to the class, but I was afraid,” my daughter reflected with us. “I wanted to talk about Jesus. I know who the greatest person is, and it’s Jesus.”
As my daughter wrestled with her fears, God provided her the encouragement to share the light and message of Jesus, something we pray about as a family daily. I believe He knew that all she needed was a little push and a little support, and that would open the doors for the gospel to emerge.
In that moment, the Lord brought her another one of His children, and together with this classmate, they were each strengthened to take a stand for Jesus.
“Jesus is the greatest person to me. The reason why, is because even when you make mistakes in life, He forgives you. He loves us so much, that He sacrificed Himself for us and our sins…”
It turns out that my daughter, and several other classmates, ended up talking about Jesus that day. One by one, student after student, God broke down the fears of 9 and 10 year old children, reminding them that He is with them, and that they don’t have to be afraid. As He calls us in to obedience, He has reminded us this from the start.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Pilate was in a difficult situation that day. God provided him encouragement even through his wife’s dreams (Matt. 27:19), but to Pilate, it wasn’t enough to overcome his fears. I realize that although Pilate had his own conscience, he did not yet believe in Jesus as the Messiah, Savior of the world, and thus was not filled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us today. Regardless, God ultimately used Pilate’s decision to bring about the salvation of the world.
As children of God, we don’t have the same excuse though. God will regularly present opportunities for us to share Christ’s love and to share His gospel. Many of us are even fully aware of the openings, but we let our fear guide our decisions, rather than the Holy Spirit. God gives us as much encouragement and support as we need to step out in faith and in obedience, but we often refuse to take it.
Let’s take a page out of the book of several 5th graders who took a stand for Jesus and their faith this week. If they can do it in a public school setting, in front of peers, friends, foes, teachers, and other students alike, then we as adults can too. The gospel of Jesus Christ was shared that day, and I am certain that God planted many seeds of hope and salvation through it!
Don’t let fear overtake you. Don’t let your circumstances bind you. If you truly believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that He is your personal Lord and Savior, then take a stand for Christ.
[From January 19, 2019]